Wrongful termination refers to the unlawful dismissal of an employee by an employer. While employment is generally considered at-will in California, there are legal protections in place to prevent unfair or discriminatory terminations. Wrongful termination lawsuits can arise when an employee believes their firing violated their rights or breached the terms of their employment contract. Here are the five common types of wrongful termination lawsuits that employees pursue.
1. Discrimination-Based Wrongful Termination
Discrimination-based wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired due to their membership in a protected class. These protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employers must base employment decisions solely on job-related qualifications and performance. If an employee can demonstrate that their termination was motivated by discriminatory factors, they may have a strong case for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
2. Retaliation for Protected Activities
Employees have the right to engage in protected activities, such as filing a complaint about workplace harassment or discrimination, participating in an investigation, or exercising labor rights. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in such protected activities. Wrongful termination lawsuits can be filed if an employee can prove that their dismissal was a direct result of their engagement in a protected activity.
3. Breach of Employment Contract
In cases where an employment contract exists, wrongful termination can occur if an employer breaches the terms of the agreement. Employment contracts may outline specific conditions for termination, such as a required notice period or grounds for dismissal. If an employer violates these terms without just cause or proper procedure, the terminated employee can bring forth a wrongful termination lawsuit based on a breach of contract.
4. Constructive Discharge
Constructive discharge happens when an employer creates a hostile work environment that forces an employee to resign. Although the employee technically quits, the termination is considered involuntary due to the intolerable work conditions. To prove constructive discharge, the employee must show that the employer’s actions made the work environment so difficult or abusive that a reasonable person would feel compelled to leave the company. Wrongful termination lawsuits in such cases may be successful if the employee can substantiate their claims.
5. Public Policy Violations
Certain jurisdictions recognize wrongful termination claims based on public policy violations. This means that an employer cannot fire an employee for reasons that contravene public policy, such as terminating someone for reporting illegal activities, refusing to participate in unlawful actions, or exercising legal rights. Wrongful termination lawsuits based on public policy violations require a strong link between the employee’s actions and the public policy issue at hand.
Wrongful termination lawsuits can be complex and challenging to navigate, but they provide legal recourse for employees who believe they have been unjustly fired. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important to consult a trusted Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer to assess the viability of your case and understand your rights.